Evelyn and Troy
Evelyn and Troy
Anytime she found herself alone, whenever she went in search of food or wood, he was there. It took several weeks before he showed himself but she knew without seeing him that he was there. She could feel his eyes on her back; feel the air shift as he moved through it. She knew better than to address him, it was clear he didn’t mean her immediate harm so she continued to play an unprescribed game of hide and seek with him. But she could not deny how much she longed to see his face again. She invented all sorts of reasons to be alone in order to feel his presence. She was aware of how inappropriate a longing like that was.
And then about six weeks after their first meeting and several miles from her home, he sparked up a conversation.
“You’re a great cause for concern,” he said. She was not surprised; she had been anticipating such an event so she turned calmly and said, “Oh yes? And why is that?”
“We don’t know what to do with you,” he replied simply, stepping out from behind a tree, his arms pulled across his broad chest.
“Why do you need to ‘do something’ with me?”
“Because you are concerning.”
“Well,” she said, fumbling for something to say, to keep him talking and to keep him standing there before her.
“We could hurt your family. But that goes against what you told me to do. Hurting them would hurt you in turn. We could stalk you until you cave in to the worry. But that doesn’t seem to have affected you so far,” he said, rubbing some dirt around on his face.
“Why do you have to do what I tell you to?” she asked.
“It seems we have no choice. When I reach out to touch you, my hand won’t move. It’s like I am paralyzed. And if I try harder it is like flames have erupted in my blood and it hurts so much that I feel like I will combust. You recall on our first meeting that you told me not to hurt you. Well, it appears no matter how hard I try, I can’t.”
He started to inch closer. She was shaking; each step nearer to her seemed to take far too long.
“And you don’t appear to be frightened of me at all,” he said, a grin playing on his lips.
“No, not at all,” she replied.
“That’s very foolish,” he said, he was so close now she could feel the warmth coming from his skin.
“Yes,” he said. And of course what happened next was so unlikely, so wildly out of the question that nobody ever even thought to think of it as a reason for how someone as small as Evelyn ended the war. There, underneath the trees of The Dark Wood, a Crooked kissed a Hopeful with such ferocity that they wondered if the boundary between their two bodies had ceased to exist for good.
So there is another thing that no one ever mentions when they talk about her. She fell in love with a Crooked. And harder than the yearning she felt when she was apart from him, worse than the life of denial she confined herself to, more awful than all of that is that even after so many years, there was still only one soul alive who knew the truth about it all. When all Evelyn had wanted was for their love to serve as an example, to show people that love can exist, no matter which side you happen to be on. She wanted others to learn from what they started.
His name was Troy. Unusually, he hadn’t been born as a Crooked, like all the rest of them. He had been a Hopeful, with a happy world and a big family. Then that family had been decimated, like everything else on the day that everybody else had lost everything too. But Troy was one of the lucky ones who didn’t burn to death. The Crookeds had discovered the young boy, cowering beneath some sacks in one of the wrecked villages. Upon bringing down a set of hungry fingers to close off his throat, Troy had stood up for himself, had actually managed to give The Crooked in question a bloody nose. They had been so impressed that they made the curious decision to take the boy under their hooded wing. They offered him protection and in return Troy must turn his allegiance. Troy had been only ten years old at the time, terrified and heartbroken, he had joined them. He had been with them ever since.
But not being born Crooked gave Troy a peculiar set of distinct characteristics. Crookeds are born with an infection in their hearts, a disease of evil. They are incapable of feeling anything except blood lust and hatred. But Troy was different. The hate in his heart had been planted there over years of conditioning. It had been forced to blossom in order for him to survive.
This being the case, day by day Evelyn watched the hatred leave him behind. She watched as it slid away from the lines in his forehead. She stopped seeing it in flashes of his smile which grew bigger with each change of expression. She stopped feeling it in the arms that he wrapped around her. The love she was impressing upon him was extinguishing the fire of loathing that had been kindled in his heart.
It had been his idea to dig the tunnel, as a way of travelling faster between his home and hers. The Crookeds worked well under ground, after years of their company he had known exactly how it should be done. The project would take some work but he had said that it would all be worth it once there was a direct path from him to her.
They would meet in places she would sure nobody would fine them. She knew the woods better than any of the others, with the exception of her hunter, Noah. But even these spots were so secluded that she was sure she was the first soul to step foot there. They started meeting in the middle of the night so she did not rouse suspicions with her long absences during the daytime. The stars were the only witness to their rebellion.
His body against hers suddenly became the only thing she could be sure of. She was restless until she was with him, never happy until he was returned to her once more. Of course, the charade did not last long. Her family had kept a much closer eye on her since her disappearance.
“Where are you going?” Noah asked, late one night as she tried to sneak from the camp.
“Just for a walk, I couldn’t sleep,” Evelyn said, not breaking her step for him. He followed until they were out of earshot.
“Evelyn!” he shouted to her.
“What is wrong? Please tell me,” he asked, the fear of hearing what she didn’t want to say was clear all over his face.
“Nothing,” she said, trying to laugh it off. “Go to bed.” And then she vanished into the darkness.
Evelyn found Troy at their arranged meeting point that night, a small hollow in the earth surrounded by gorse bushes, sitting subdued and pensive.
‘They know something is wrong,’ Troy whispered, miserably.
After that night she didn’t see him for many weeks, weeks that folded into each other, always with a growing sense of foreboding. She could not help but imagine the worst.
“What’s wrong?” Meg had asked her one day as they sat shelling peas.
“Nothing,” she lied.
“Don’t lie to me. I know something is wrong. Are you pregnant?” she asked.
“No,” Evelyn lied. She was fairly sure that she was indeed pregnant. She hadn’t been gaining much weight because she was too anxious to eat but there were all the other signs, the sickness, the heavy, dull sense of life.
“Evelyn, you can tell me. I know. Is it Noah?”
“Don’t ask me. The less you know the better,” Evelyn said, standing.
“He is going crazy over you. You two haven’t spoken in weeks and he’s seen you disappearing in the night and he thinks that one day you’re going to run away for good. Please tell me you aren’t. We can’t lose you again,” she said.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Evelyn replied, hatefully.
“No, you left a long time ago. I don’t know who you are anymore,” Meg said, dropping the peas.
Evelyn couldn’t even feel the shame. She was too busy feeling sick. She knew then that her time with the family was coming to an end. At some point, before everybody could tell that she was pregnant, she would have to leave. She could not explain how it had come about, could not admit the father was a Crooked and so she was left with no choice but to leave them behind and start again somewhere else.
Then the night that all of the stories have been leading up to, the night that forged all of the foot holds for the rest of The Hopefuls, came to pass. Evelyn had been lying awake, uncomfortable and restless, feeling her baby shift and fidget in her belly. And then in that all knowing way that all of her family are gifted with, she could feel that Troy was near and that he was somewhere needing her help. She moved as silently and as carefully as she could through the forest, fearful of falling. She found herself following her nose back to their little hollow amongst the scrub; gravity was pulling her towards that place. As she drew closer, a frightful sort of moaning travelled to her on the air. She knew, without seeing where it came from, that it belonged to him. She barged her way through the scrub, to find him curled up on the ground, nursing a wound that it was too dark for Evelyn to see.
“What happened?” Evelyn whispered urgently, trying to pry his hands from his chest where Evelyn could see great flowers of blood upon his clothes. His face was shiny with sweat, gleaming from the little moonlight that filtered through the trees, providing her light enough to see that he was purple with bruises and etched with lines of ripped flesh.
“Listen,” he groaned, his panic evident through his pain.
“Why did they do this?” Evelyn asked, finally ripping his hands away from the wound and rolling him onto the back to get a better look.
“They know. They know everything. I don’t know how long I have so you have to listen. Are you listening?”
“I don’t-,” Evelyn began, the fear wreaking havoc on her body, her breath, her ability to form sentences.
“Evelyn!” he hissed.
“I’m listening,” she replied, taking her sleeve and starting to ineffectually wipe the blood from his face.
“Evelyn. You are The Saviour. That is what they call you. You are the only one stronger than they are. There are rules that come with that, Evelyn. That is why if you ever give a Crooked a direct order, they have no choice but to obey you. They must obey you until you tell them to stop, only then will they be able to override the command. That’s why we couldn’t raise a hand to you. Also, anyone else you name as Protector will also have this power but they will only have one command because their power won’t be as strong as yours. And this is the most important one, Evelyn. If a Crooked ever falls in love with a Hopeful, no Crooked will ever be able to kill that person; they will be protected by that love. Do you understand?”
“No,” Evelyn whispered.
“These rules mean that you can never be hurt by them. It means that you will live, no matter what happens to me. It is because I love you that you have this power over them.”
“No,” Evelyn repeated lamely, this couldn’t be happening because nothing was ever going to happen to him. And yet with each word he spoke she could feel him pulling further and further away from her.
“Do you understand?” he asked, using all his strength to sit up slightly and grasp her shoulders.
She didn’t understand and she found she didn’t want to. She didn’t understand how he could have made such rules in the first place or why her word would have any effect on any of them at all.
“Do you understand?” he bellowed, the effort of it all making the flowers on his shirt grow extra petals.
“Yes,” she gasped.
He took her face between his rough, dangerous hands and kissed her with a feeling of finality, with a feeling of never kissing her again. Something they were correct in feeling because he never would kiss her again.
“This can’t be happening,” she said, pulling away from him. “You can’t die, do you hear me. Don’t you dare die.”
And then they came for him. All that was heard in the little hollow that night was a single, sharp snarl, his hands were ripped from hers, he called her name once and then was gone, his body disappearing through the trees, borne on the air by heaven knows what means. And then everything was silence once more. The whole groundbreaking exchange had lasted around two minutes. After this fateful discussion, The Crookeds retreated for many years, leaving The Hopefuls in peace. The knowledge that just one person had the power to overthrow them once and for all was quite enough of a worry for them to keep them at bay.
Evelyn was rescued that night by the two men who loved her most, first by Troy who saved her life indefinitely and then by Noah, who had of course followed her. He stepped out of the shadows, lifted her from the ground and carried her home.
“I’m having a baby,” she sobbed into his shoulder. Without her having to explain even a word more, he understood. He knew she had fallen in love with someone she shouldn’t have done. He knew that the baby would be unexplainable to the others. And in six words her forgave her and granted her another chance.
“We’ll pretend that it’s my baby.”
And that is exactly what they did.
Evelyn’s adventures concluded a little something like this. Her baby was born two weeks early, underneath a crescent moon in the month of April. It was a boy whom they named Troy.
Noah and Evelyn did everything just as a mother and father ought. He lied for her and loved her in his quiet, patient way. He held her hand throughout, he loved the child like it was his own and he allowed her to name the baby after the man she would always love and would always be fruitlessly watching the edges of the trees for.
Somewhere along the way though, the need for any kind of pretence ceased. Without realizing it, Evelyn had fallen in love with Noah. In this case, loving someone enough, loving them into submission happened to succeed marvelously. He was everything Troy wasn’t. He was dependable, loyal and alive. Which turned out to be exactly what she needed after all.
One fine day Evelyn and Noah decided an adventure was called for. They set out on a journey. Knowing what she knew, namely that she had control over The Crookeds should she merely say a word, she felt no fear. She had passed on the gift to Noah who became Protector, and so he also felt no trouble at what they might find. They set out to find the old Kingdom, the place that was destroyed in the flood and the place that The Crookeds had kept as their stronghold for all those years.
It took two weeks of travelling across country but eventually they came to the place. Imposing, grey, cruel looking structures that had been erected in a hurry littered the land before them. There were no signs of life, all was still. But that did not mean there was nobody home. They crept onwards, into the haphazard mess of buildings. There was no colour to be found behind any window, the place looked abused, scorched and desecrated. The pair looked at each other and as agreed, they began the process of building a fire, stacking wood and paper and furniture right in the centre of it all. But it was Evelyn who was given the honour of burning it to the ground. They worked furiously until they were sure that the blaze was violent enough to bring the whole of it to its knees. And then just to be safe they waited, far away in the trees and watched as the flames fanned high into the falling sky. The air smelt of smoke and victory and the fire crackled with songs of finality. The first chapter of the Age of Atrocity was over.
Eventually they had their own baby, whom they named Arthur. There was a makeshift sort of a wedding, without there being any holy people around, they made it as official as they thought possible. Meg, being Evelyn’s closest friend, performed the wedding and when she said, “You may now kiss the bride,” which sounded like the right sort of thing to say, Noah looked at Evelyn with eyes that whispered, “At last.”